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  • Writer's pictureStephen Callaghan

A Lion on the Field of Battle – Major George Washington Holmes

The 18th of June 2020 marks the 205th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, with that in mind today's post is appropriately themed for the occasion.

Within St. Brendan’s Old Graveyard, Birr, among the silent tombs of the dead stands an unassuming box tomb. In the right light the worn inscription reveals the following:

George Washington Holmes

Late Major 92nd Regt

Died at Parsonstown

1st January 1852

Aged 82

Also Mary his beloved Wife who

died the 4th day of Decr, 1853

Aged 86 Years

This is an account of the life of George Washington Holmes. Born in Dublin around 1770. In this early life he visited North America where he worked there in civil employment for a number of years. He returned home to Ireland and shortly after received a commissioned as an Ensign in the 92nd (Gordon Highlanders) Regiment of Foot. He was promoted to Lieutenant in October 1799.

Present in Egypt in 1801, he fought during the unsuccessful Walcheren Expedition. This followed on with service during the Peninsula War (1795 – 1814). He was severely wounded during the Battle of the Pyrenees (25 - 30 July 1813) and then again at the Battle of Nive (11 December 1813). Captain Holmes was present at the Battle of Waterloo where yet again he was severely wounded. The 92nd Regiment of Foot suffered heavy casualties during the battle. On the 20 July 1815 he was promoted to Major.

Major Holmes impressive service entitled him the Sultan’s medal for Egypt, the Military General Service medal with the clasps Egypt, Vittoria, Pyrenees and Nive and the Waterloo medal.

After leaving the army, Major Holmes settled in Parsontown. He is recorded on the 1821 census as residing in a two-storey house at 4, Oxmantown Place, with his wife Mary and their two daughters Jane aged 14 years and Georgina aged 11 years along with their inside servant, Margaret Delany. Major Holmes was the local director of the Provincial Bank since the first establishment of the its branch in Parsonstown. He was also treasurer of the Savings Bank and a trustee of the Parsonstown Loan Fund Society.

Major Holmes died on 1 January 1852 at the age of 82 years. The local newspaper, the King’s County Chronicle published a substantial obituary in which it referred to him as ‘a lion on the field of battle, yet as mild and benevolent in peace as a lamb’. The paper also noted how when leaving his house, he would take fruit and a halfpenny, the fruit given to his neighbours children and the halfpence to charity. The day of his funeral every shop was closed, and the funeral itself was attended by almost every inhabitant of Parsonstown.

Box tomb of Major George Washington Holmes in St. Brendan's Graveyard, Birr.


1821 Census

London Gazette

King’s County Chronicle

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